Unconsciousness and amnesia after cross-body electric shocks not involving the head-A prospective cohort study

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INTRODUCTION: Little is known about how electrical current passes through the human body except that it follows the physical rule of least resistance. Whether organs remote from the shortest route of the current can be affected is unknown, as different types of tissue vary in resistance. This may explain why some people exposed to electrical injury report symptoms from the central nervous system (CNS). In this study, we examined the association between exposure to cross-body electrical current and immediate CNS symptoms.

MATERIAL AND METHODS: In a prospective cohort study, we followed 6960 members of the Danish Union of Electricians for 26 weeks using weekly questionnaires. We identified 2356 electrical shocks, and for each shock we asked whether the exposure was cross-body or same-side. We excluded those who reported exposure to the head as well as those who could not report the entry and exit points of the current. We examined two outcomes: becoming unconscious or having amnesia of the event. We use percentages to describe the data and logistic regression to analyze the results.

RESULTS: We found that unconsciousness and amnesia following electric shocks were rare events (0.6% and 2.2%, respectively). We found an increased risk of reporting unconsciousness and amnesia in those exposed to cross-body electrical shock exposure compared to those with same-side exposure (Odds Ratio 2.60[0.62 to 10.96] and Odds Ratio 2.18[0.87 to 5.48]).

CONCLUSION: Although the outcomes investigated are rare, we cannot rule out a possible effect on the CNS when persons are exposed to cross-body electrical current even though it does not pass through the head.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0283957
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2023


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